Monday, January 25, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1839


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-five years ago today, January 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy held his first official news conference as President of the United States.  

The meeting with the press, held in the State Department Auditorium, was the first presidential press conference to be televised live across the nation.  Sixty-five million Americans tuned in for the conference in 21.5 million homes.

JFK was to have an average television audience of 18 million for all his news conferences.   Press secretary, Pierre Salinger, said...

"The ideas and philosophy of (President Kennedy)...were best displayed during those moments of truth when he stood alone before the representatives of the press..."

Mr. Salinger went on to say that JFK was well prepared for each of his news conferences.    The staff would provide, beforehand, questions they thought might be asked.  This gave the President the opportunity to form his responses and ask his staff to gather more information on a topic if needed.

According to Assistant Press secretary Malcolm Kilduff, President Kennedy had a unique ability to predict what questions would be asked and sometimes would imitate the reporter's voice who would most likely ask them.

When the double doors of the auditorium opened, the President would stride through and all reporters would stand.  After JFK made a brief opening statement, the floor was open for questions.  Reporters who had questions would stand and say "Mr. President!"

JFK would select one, point at that reporter,  while the others would sit back down and wait for their next opportunity.

Following are two questions and answers from the JFK's first presidential news conference...


Does your administration plan to take any steps to solve the problem at Fayette County, Tennessee where tenant farmers have been evicted from their homes because they voted last November & now must live in tents?

The President...

The Congress...enacted legislation which placed very clear responsibility on the executive branch to protect the right of voting.  I support that legislation. I am extremely interested in making sure that every American is given the right to cast his vote without prejudice to his rights as a citizen.  And, therefore, I can state that this administration will pursue the problem of providing that protection with all vigor.


Would you consider reopening diplomatic relations in Cuba?

The President...

We have no plan at the present to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba...because of the factors (Soviet/Communist influence) which are involved on that island.


"Kennedy and the Press:  The News Conferences,"  Edited & Annotated by Harold W. Chase & Allen H. Lerman, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1965.

JFK Press Conference
 November 20, 1962
Photo by Abbie Rowe
JFK Library Image